or, The Astrologer
by Walter Scott
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes
Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a law-clerk and judge, Clerk of Session and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire, one of the leading figures of Scottish Toryism and of the Highland Society. Scott was the first English-language author to achieve international fame, largely with novels of a romantic past.
For more works by Walter Scott, see The Index
I. - The Astrologer
It was in the month of November, 17 -, when a young English gentleman, who had just left the University of Oxford, being benighted while sightseeing in Dumfriesshire, sought shelter at Ellangowan, on the very night the heir was born. Our hero, Guy Mannering, entering into the simple humour of Mr. Bertram, his host, agreed to calculate the infant's horoscope by the stars, having in early youth studied with an old clergyman who had a firm belief in astrology.
Mannering had once before tried a similar piece of foolery, at the instance of the young lady to whom he was betrothed, and now found that the result of the scheme in both cases presaged misfortune in the same year to the infant as to her. To the baby, three periods would be particularly hazardous - his fifth, his tenth, his twenty-first year.
He mentally relinquished his art for ever, and to prevent the child being supposed to be the object of evil prediction, he gave the paper into Mr. Bertram's hand, and requested him to keep it for five years with the seal unbroken, after which period he left him at liberty, trusting that the first fatal year being safely overpast, no credit would be paid to its farther contents.
When Mrs. Bertram was able to work again, her first employment was to make a small velvet bag for the scheme of nativity; and though her fingers itched to break the seal, she had the firmness to enclose it in two slips of parchment, and put it in the bag aforesaid, and hang it round the neck of the infant.
It was again in the month of November, more than twenty years after the above incident, that a loud rapping was heard at the door of the Gordon Arms at Kippletringan.
"I wish, madam," said the traveller, entering the kitchen, where several neighbours were assembled, "you would give me leave to warm myself here, for the night is very cold."
His appearance, voice, and manner, produced an instantaneous effect in his favour. The landlady installed her guest comfortably by the fireside, and offered what refreshment her house afforded.
"A cup of tea, ma'am, if you will favour me." Mrs. MacCandlish bustled about, and proceeded in her duties with her best grace, explaining that she had a very nice parlour, and everything agreeable for gentlefolks; but it was bespoke to-night for a gentleman and his daughter, that were going to leave this part of the country.
The sound of wheels was now heard, and the postilion entered. "No, they canna' come at no rate, the laird's sae ill."
"But God help them," said the landlady. "The morn's the term - the very last day they can bide in the house - a' things to be roupit."
"Weel, I tell you, Mr. Bertram canna be moved."
"What Mr. Bertram?" said the stranger. "Not Mr. Bertram of Ellangowan, I hope?"
"Just e'en that same, sir; and if ye be a friend o' his, ye've come at a time when he's sair bested."
"I have been abroad for many years. Is his health so much deranged?"
"Ay, and his affairs an' a'. The creditors have entered into possession o' the estate, and it's for sale. And some that made the maist o' him, they're sairest on him now. I've a sma' matter due mysell, but I'd rather have lost it than gane to turn the auld man out of his house, and him just dying."
"Ay, but," said the parish clerk, "Factor Glossin wants to get rid of the auld laird, and drive on the sale, for fear the heir-male should cast up; for if there's an heir-male, they canna sell the estate for auld Ellangowan's debt."
"He had a son born a good many years ago," said the stranger. "He is dead, I suppose?"
"Dead! I'se warrant him dead lang syne. He hasna' been heard o' these twenty years."
"I wat weel it's no twenty years," said the landlady. "It's no abune seventeen in this very month. It made an unco noise ower a' this country. The bairn disappeared the very day that Supervisor Kennedy came by his end. He was a daft dog! Oh, an' he could ha' handen' off the smugglers! Ye see, sir, there was a king's sloop down in Wigton Bay, and Frank Kennedy, he behoved to have her up to chase Dirk Hatteraick's lugger. He was a daring cheild, and fought his ship till she blew up like peelings of ingans."
"And Mr. Bertram's child," said the stranger, "what is all this to him?"
"Ou, sir, the bairn aye held an unca wark wi' the supervisor, and it was generally thought he went on board the vessel with him."
"No, no; you're clean out there, Luckie! The young laird was stown awa' by a randy gipsy woman they ca'd Meg Merrilies," said the deacon.
But the presenter would not have this version, and told a tale of how an astrologer, an ancient man, had appeared at the time of the heir's birth, and told the laird that the Evil One would have power over the knave bairn, and he charged him that the bairn should be brought up in the ways of piety, and should aye hae a godly minister at his elbow; and the aged man vanished away, and so they engaged Dominie Sampson to be with him morn and night. But even that godly minister had failed to protect the child, who was last seen being carried off by Frank Kennedy on his horse to see a king's ship chase a smuggler. The excise-man's body was found at the foot of the crags at Warroch Point, but no one knew what had become of the child.
A smart servant entered with a note for the stranger, saying, "The family at Ellangowan are in great distress, sir, and unable to receive any visits."
"I know it," said his master. "And now, madam, if you will have the goodness to allow me to occupy the parlour - - "
"Certainly, sir," said Mrs. MacCandlish, and hastened to light the way.
"And wha' may your master be, friend?"
"What! That's the famous Colonel Mannering, sir, from the East Indies."
"What, him we read of in the papers?"
"Lord safe us!" said the landlady. "I must go and see what he would have for supper - that I should set him down here."
When the landlady re-entered, Colonel Mannering asked her if Mr. Bertram lost his son in his fifth year.
"O ay, sir, there's nae doubt of that; though there are many idle clashes about the way and manner. And the news being rashly told to the leddy cost her her life that saym night; and the laird never throve from that day, was just careless of everything. Though when Miss Lucy grew up she tried to keep order. But what could she do, poor thing? So now they're out of house and hauld."
II. - Vanbeest Brown's Reappearance
Early next morning, Mannering took the road to Ellangowan. He had no need to inquire the way; people of all descriptions streamed to the sale from all quarters.
When the old towers of the ruin rose upon his view, thoughts thronged upon the mind of the traveller. How changed his feelings since he lost sight of them so many years before! Then life and love were new, and all the prospect was gilded by their rays. And now, disappointed in affection, sated with fame, goaded by bitter and repentant recollections, his best hope was to find a retirement in which to nurse the melancholy which was to accompany him to his grave. About a year before, in India, he had returned from a distant expedition to find a young cadet named Brown established as the habitual attendant on his wife and daughter, an arrangement which displeased him greatly, owing to the suggestions of another cadet, though no objection could be made to the youth's character or manners. Brown made some efforts to overcome his colonel's prejudice, but feeling himself repulsed, and with scorn, desisted, and continued his attentions in defiance. At last some trifle occurred which occasioned high words and a challenge. They met on the frontiers of the settlement, and Brown fell at the first shot. A horde of Looties, a species of banditti, poured in upon them, and Colonel Mannering and his second escaped with some difficulty. His wife's death shortly after, and his daughter's severe illness, made him throw up his command and come home. She was now staying with some old friends in Westmoreland, almost restored to her wonted health and gaiety.
When Colonel Mannering reached the house he found his old acquaintance paralysed, helpless, waiting for the postchaise to take him away. Mannering's evident emotion at once attained him the confidence of Lucy Bertram. The laird showed no signs of recognising Mannering; but when the man, Gilbert Glossin, who had brought him to this pass, had the effrontery to make his appearance, he started up, violently reproaching him, sank into his chair again, and died almost without a groan.
A torrent of sympathy now poured forth, the sale was postponed, and Mannering decided on making a short tour till it should take place, but he was called back to Westmoreland, and, owing to the delay of his messenger, the estate passed into the hands of Glossin. Lucy and Dominie Sampson, who would not be separated from his pupil, found a temporary home in the house of Mr. MacMorlan, the sheriff-substitute, a good friend of the family.
Colonel Mannering lost no time in hiring for a season a large and comfortable mansion not far from Ellangowan, having some hopes of ultimately buying that estate. Besides a sincere desire to serve the distressed, he saw the advantage his daughter Julia might receive from the company of Lucy Bertram, whose prudence and good sense might be relied on, and therefore induced her to become the visitor of a season, and the dominie thereupon required no pressing to accept the office of librarian. The household was soon settled in its new quarters, and the young ladies followed their studies and amusements together.
Society was quickly formed, most of the families in the neighbourhood visited Colonel Mannering, and Charles Hazlewood soon held a distinguished place in his favour and was a frequent visitor, his parents quite forgetting their old fear of his boyish attachment to penniless Lucy Bertram in the thought that the beautiful Miss Mannering, of high family, with a great fortune, was a prize worth looking after. They did not know that the colonel's journey to Westmoreland was in consequence of a letter from his friend there expressing uneasiness about serenades from the lake beside the house. However, he had returned without making any discovery or any advance in his daughter's confidence, who might have told him that Brown still lived, had not her natural good sense and feeling been warped by the folly of a misjudging, romantic mother, who had called her husband a tyrant until she feared him as such.
Vanbeest Brown had escaped from captivity and attained the rank of captain after Mannering left India, and his regiment having been recalled home, was determined to persevere in his addresses to Julia while she left him a ray of hope, believing that the injuries he had received from her father might dispense with his using much ceremony towards him.
So, soon after the Mannerings' settlement in Scotland, he was staying in the inn at Kippletringan; and, as the landlady said, "a' the hoose was ta'en wi' him, he was such a frank, pleasant young man." There had been a good deal of trouble with the smugglers of late, and one day Brown met the young ladies with Charles Hazlewood. Julia's alarm at his appearance misled that young man, and he spoke roughly to Brown, even threatening him with his gun. In the confusion the gun went off, wounding Hazlewood.
III. - Glossin's Villainy
Gilbert Glossin, Esq., now Laird of Ellangowan, and justice of the peace, saw an opportunity of ingratiating himself with the country gentry, and exerted himself to discover the person by whom young Charles Hazlewood had been wounded. So it was with great pleasure he heard his servants announce that MacGuffog, the thief-taker, had a man waiting his honour, handcuffed and fettered.
The worthy judge and the captive looked at each other steadily. At length Glossin said:
"So, captain, this is you? You've been a stranger on these coasts for some years."
"Stranger!" replied the other. "Strange enough, I should think, for hold me der teyvil, if I have ever been here before."
Glossin took a pair of pistols, and loaded them.
"You may retire," said he to his clerk, "and carry the people with you, but wait within call." Then: "You are Dirk Hatteraick, are you not?"
"Tousand teyvils! And if you know that, why ask me?"
"Captain, bullying won't do. You'll hardly get out of this country without accounting for a little accident at Warroch Point a few years ago."
Hatteraick's looks grew black as midnight.
"For my part," continued Glossin. "I have no wish to be hard on an old acquaintance, but I must send you off to Edinburgh this very day."
"Poz donner! you would not do that?" said the prisoner. "Why, you had the matter of half a cargo in bills on Vanbeest and Vanbruggen!"
"It was an affair in the way of business," said Glossin, "and I have retired from business for some time."
"Ay, but I have a notion I could make you go steady about, and try the old course again," said Dirk Hatteraick. "I had something to tell you."
"Of the boy?" said Glossin eagerly.
"Yaw, mynheer," replied the captain coolly.
"He does not live, does he?"
"As lifelich as you or me," said Hatteraick.
"Good God! But in India?" exclaimed Glossin.
"No, tousand teyvils, here - on this dirty coast of yours!" rejoined the prisoner.
"But, Hatteraick, this - that is, if it be true, will ruin us both, for he cannot but remember."
"I tell you," said the seaman, "it will ruin none but you, for I am done up already, and if I must strap for it, all shall out."
Glossin paused - the sweat broke upon his brow; while the hard-featured miscreant sat opposite coolly rolling his tobacco in his cheek.
"It would be ruin," said Glossin to himself, "absolute ruin, if the heir should reappear - and then what might be the consequences of conniving with these men?"
"Hark you, Hatteraick, I can't set you at liberty, but I can put you where you can set yourself at liberty. I always like to assist an old friend."
So he gave him a file.
"There's a friend for you, and you know the way to the sea, and you must remain snug at the point of Warroch till I see you."
"The point of Warroch?" Hatteraick's countenance fell. "What - in the cave? I would rather it was anywhere else. They say he walks. But donner and blitzen! I never shunned him alive, and I won't shun him dead!"
The justice dismissed the party to keep guard for the night in the old castle with a large allowance of food and liquor, with the full hope and belief that they would spend the night neither in watching nor prayer. Next morning great was the alarm when the escape of the prisoner was discovered. When the officers had been sent off in all directions (except the right one), Glossin went to Hatteraick in the cave. A light soon broke upon his confusion of ideas. This missing heir was Vanbeest Brown who had wounded young Hazlewood. He hastily explained to Dick Hatteraick that his goods which had been seized were lying in the Custom-house at Portanferry, and there to the Bridewell beside it be would send this younker, when he had caught him; would take care that the soldiers were dispersed, and he, Dick Hatteraick, could land with his crew, receive his own goods, and carry the younker Brown back to Flushing.
"Ay, carry him to Flushing," said the captain, "or to America, or - to Jericho?"
"Psha! Wherever you have a mind."
"Ay, or pitch him overboard?"
"Nay, I advise no violence."
"Nein, nein! You leave that to me Sturm-wetter; I know you of old. But, hark ye, what am I, Dirk Hatteraick, to be the better for this?"
Glossin made him understand it would not be safe for either of them if young Ellangowan settled in the country, and their plans were soon arranged. None of the old crew were alive but the gipsy who had sent the news of Brown's whereabouts and identity.
Brown, or, as we may now call him, Harry Bertram, had retreated into England, but now, hearing that Hazlewood's wound was trifling, returned and landed at Ellangowan Bay; he approached the castle, unconscious as the most absolute stranger, where his ancestors had exercised all but regal dominion.
Confused memories thronged his mind, and he paused by a curious coincidence on nearly the same spot on which his father had died, just as Glossin came up the bank with an architect, to whom he was talking of alterations; Bertram turned short round upon him, and said:
"Would you destroy this fine old castle, sir?"
He was so exactly like his father in his best days that Glossin thought the grave had given up its dead. He staggered back, but instantly recovered, and whispered a few words in the ear of his companion, who immediately went towards the house, while Glossin talked civilly to Bertram. By the next evening he was safely locked up in the Bridewell at Portanferry, until Sir Charles Hazlewood, the injured youth's father, to whom Glossin had conducted him, could make inquiries as to the truth of his story.
IV. - Bertram's Restoration
Bertram, unable to sleep, gazing out of the window of his prison, saw a long boat making for the quay. About twenty men landed and disappeared, and soon a miscellaneous crowd came back, some carrying torches, some bearing packages and barrels, and a red glare illuminated land and sea, and shone full on them, as with ferocious activity they loaded their boats. A fierce attack was made on the prison gates; they were soon forced, and three or four smugglers hurried to Bertram's apartment. "Der teyvil," said the leader, "here's our mark!" And two of them seized on Bertram, and one whispered, "Make no resistance till you are in the street."
They dragged him along, and in the confusion outside the gang got separated. A noise as of a body of horse advancing seemed to add to the disturbance, the press became furiously agitated, shots were fired, and the glittering swords of dragoons began to appear. Now came the warning whisper: "Shake off that fellow, and follow me!"
Bertram, exerting his strength suddenly, easily burst from the other man's grasp, and dived through a narrow lane after his guide, at the end of which stood a postchaise with four horses.
"Get into it," said the guide. "You will soon be in a place of safety."
They were driven at a rapid rate through the dark lanes, and suddenly stopped at the door of a large house. Brown, dizzied by the sudden glare of light, almost unconsciously entered the open door, and confronted Colonel Mannering; interpreting his fixed and motionless astonishment into displeasure at his intrusion, hastened to say it was involuntary.
"Mr. Brown, I believe?" said Colonel Mannering.
"Yes, sir," said the young man modestly but firmly. "The same you knew in India, and who ventures to hope that you would favour him with your attestation to his character as a gentleman and man of honour."
At this critical moment appeared Mr. Pleydell, the lawyer who had conducted the inquiry as to the disappearance of Harry Bertram, who happened to be staying with Colonel Mannering, and he instantly saw the likeness to the late laird.
Bertram was as much confounded at the appearance of those to whom he so unexpectedly presented himself as they were at the sight of him. Mr. Pleydell alone was in his element, and at once took upon himself the whole explanation. His catechism had not proceeded far before Dominie Sampson rose hastily, with trembling hands and streaming eyes, and called aloud:
"Harry Bertram, look at me!"
"Yes," said Bertram, starting from his seat - "yes, that was my name, and that is my kind old master."
When they parted for the night Colonel Mannering walked up to Bertram, gave him joy of his prospects, and hoped unkindness would be forgotten between them. It was he who had sent the postchaise to Portanferry in consequence of a letter he had received from Meg Merrilies; it was she who had sent back the soldiers so opportunely, and through her the next day Dirk Hatteraick was captured; but, unhappily, she was killed by that ruffian at the moment of the fulfilment of her hopes for the family of Ellangowan.
Glossin also met the fate he deserved at the hands of Hatteraick, who had claims to no virtue but fidelity to his shipowners.
Mr. Pleydell carried through his law business successfully, and we leave him and the colonel examining plans for a new house for Julia and Bertram on the estate of Ellangowan. Another house on the estate was to be repaired for the other young couple, Lucy and Hazlewood, and called Mount Hazlewood.
"And see," said the colonel, "here's the plan of my bungalow, with all convenience for being separate and sulky when I please."
"And you will repair the tower for the nocturnal contemplation of the heavenly bodies. Bravo, colonel!"
"No, no, my dear Pleydell! Here ends the astrologer."
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